(Originally posted at Fair and Unbalanced)
In 2009, Jason Bay hit 36 home runs with 119 RBIs for the Red Sox, and prior to that had several excellent seasons with the Pirates, hitting between 21-35 homers every year. But then he signed with the Mets for $66 million, which has translated into six home runs last year and six so far this year. His 2011 slugging percentage stands at .319, lowest on the entire team. The last Met who went as long as Bay has gone without hitting a double (he has only 4 all year) was Rey Ordonez, the slick fielding, poor hitting shortstop more than ten years ago.
While I was watching the Mets lose to the Marlins last night with Bay having a typically dreadful game, I started thinking about All-Time Met busts -- All Stars who came to the Mets with high expectations but then tanked miserably. (Spoiler Alert: Jason Bay makes the squad.)
First base: Mo Vaughn. The "Hit Dog" was the 1995 American League MVP, which he followed with several stellar seasons for the Red Sox. He then went to the Angels, where after an injury-plagued season in 2001, he signed with the Mets. His only big number in 2002 was his 275-pound weight. As for hitting, 72 RBIs with 145 strikeouts was not what the Mets were looking for. By early 2003, he was out of baseball.
Second base: Juan Samuel had a rare combination of power and speed, becoming the first player ever to have 10 or more doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases in his first four years. In 1989, at mid-season, the Mets traded two beloved players from the 1986 championship team, Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell, to the Phillies for Samuel. Samuel hit a meager .228 with three homers and 28 RBIs in half a year with the Mets, and was then traded to the Dodgers. Dykstra had great years with the Phils, helping them reach the World Series in 1993.
(Honorable mention: Roberto Alomar was one of the best second basemen in baseball history and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame today! The Mets traded for him in 2002, where he started along side the aforementioned Mo Vaughn. Alomar became a Met after a typically great year for Cleveland (.336 avg., 20 homers, 100 RBIs) but he all-of-a-sudden couldn't hit and couldn't field.)
Shortstop: Tony Fernandez. The great Blue Jays shortstop, Tony Fernandez, was involved in a blockbuster trade in 1991, where he and Fred "Crime Dog" McGriff went to the Padres in exchange for Joe Carter and Robert Alomar. Fernandez had two solid years with San Diego. He then came to the Mets where, after hitting .225 in 48 games, he was traded back to the Blue Jays, and miraculously revived his career. Teaming up with Alomar, Fernandez helped Toronto beat Dykstra's Phillies in the 1993 World Series.
Third base: Bobby Bonilla. (Although mostly an outfielder, Bonilla came up as a third baseman and did play there some with the Mets.) Bobby Bo and Barry Bonds were the two power-hitting outfielders for the great Pittsburgh Pirate teams of the late 1980s-early 1990s. Bonds went to the Giants and we got Bonilla. Bonilla had 120 RBIs with the Pirates in 1990, and in 1991, he hit over .300, had 100 RBIs and led the league with 44 doubles. Only 29 and in his prime, he signed with the Mets for what was a huge contract at the time: 5 years, $29 million. In 1992, he hit for a .249 average with 70 RBIs. Things got so bad that he wore ear plugs when playing at home to block out the boos. After a couple more lackluster years, the Mets traded him to the Orioles. But here's the kicker: The Mets deferred part of his salary with interest so that they will continue to pay him over $1 million a year until 2035.
(Honorable mention: Jim Fregosi. Fregosi was a 6-time All Star with the Angels, including five years in a row until 1971, when he was hurt. The next year the Mets decided to trade their young pitching phenom Nolan Ryan for him. Fregosi continued to suffer injuries throughout the 1972 season and was traded to Texas the following year. Nolan Ryan had a Hall-of-Fame career.)
Outfield: George Foster. Foster, a five-time All Star and 1977 MVP, was a key part of the powerful Reds teams known as The Big Red Machine. He was traded to the Mets before the 1982 season and signed a huge five-year contract. Foster had big power numbers with the Reds from 1976-1981, but they declined dramatically as soon as he put on the blue and orange. In 1982, he hit 13 home runs with only 70 RBIs, and never became the star the Mets thought they were getting. Foster was released in August of the Mets' 1986 championship year. He was hitting .225 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs at the time.
Outfield: Vince Coleman was an incredibly exciting player for the St. Louis Cardinals. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1985 and a two-time All Star. He was signed by the Mets in 1991, where his six-year streak of leading the league in stolen bases ended. He was often hurt and played mediocre baseball when he wasn't. Off the field, things didn't go much better. In 1993, he threw a lit firecracker into a crowd of fans that injured three children and swung a golf club in the clubhouse that injured star pitcher Dwight Gooden.
Outfield: Jason Bay (see above)
Pitcher: Bret Saberhagen. Saberhagen came to the Mets with high expectations in the winter of 1991. He was a two-time Cy Young Award winner and was only 28 years old. In his first two years with the Mets he was mostly injured and won only 10 games. He bounced back in 1994, winning 14 in a strike-shortened season, but was shipped to Colorado in 1995. Like Coleman, his antics off the field were less than endearing, which included spraying bleach at a group of reporters.
Catcher: I had to reach a little for this one. The two All Star catchers the Mets acquired were Gary Carter and Mike Piazza. No complaints there. So, I'm going to go with Hobie Landrith, who played 23 games for the Mets in 1962, before being traded to the Orioles for early Met icon Marvelous Marv Throneberry. Landrith was the very first player picked by the New York Mets in the expansion draft of 1961, before their inaugural season. Mets manager Casey Stengel explained why he picked the catcher by saying: "You gotta have a catcher or you're gonna have a lot of passed balls."